Saturday, 21 December 2013

A THING DONE by Tinney Sue Heath – Reviewed by Louise Rule

 ‘It was a fool that began it, but it took a woman to turn it murderous.’

The opening lines of this novel A THING DONE by Tinney Sue Heath are more profound and poignant than you can imagine when you first start to read. It is only as you progress through this well-crafted novel that you begin to realise the web of intrigue which forms from those opening lines.

We are in Florence, Italy, in the year is 1216, and the protagonist, the Fool, is our commentator and guide through the remembered events. Tinney Sue Heath has a wonderful way of placing the reader beside the Fool, and equally, the Fool has such an eye for detail describing the materials of the women’s clothes, and those also of the men. He had an eye that, at first, I thought too feminine, but on reflection, as the story unfolds, you realise that this Fool has much time to observe those ‘people with surnames’ as the upper class were referred to. He observes in detail, their lifestyle, their homes, and their flamboyant clothes. For the reader it fills the imagination cinematically, and adds layers of texture to the story.

Neri, a lifelong friend is his partner in the Jesting act and plays an organetto which hangs on a thick leather strap around his neck. I imagined an organetto to be like an accordion, but on looking it up I find it to be a portable pipe organ, and quite a cumbersome thing to have to carry I would imagine.

Tinney’s knowledge of the history of this time in Florence is as though she had gone back in time herself. Her descriptions of the buildings and their proximity to each other lays before you a town plan that can be seen in your mind’s eye. The people, the smells, the sights, all come to life through the telling.

The Fool, whose given name is Corrado … ‘but no one ever uses it…’, and Neri have been hired, together with their other members, Rufino and Anselmo, to entertain at the celebrations of Buondelmonti, or messer Mazzingo, ‘…to give him his newly-minted knightly title…’  However, Buondelmonti has invited knights from both factions, the other being Oddo Arrighi dei Fifanti, and his men. So now they are grouped at opposite ends of the courtyard. The die is cast, we are now aware of the rift between these two factions, and a sense of brooding unease is in the air.

It is while the jesting and entertainment is in progress at the banquet, that the Fool executes a prank that has been asked of him to perform by messer Oddo Arrighi dei Fifanti. It is this prank that ignites the flame of revenge, and the novel then explodes into action and intrigue from that point.

As the story unfolds we are shown the stark differences between the upper and lower classes, all narrated by the Fool, who has an uncanny knack of embroiling himself into situations not of his own making. Because it is he who has performed the ill-fated prank, it is he who is summoned by Oddo to carry messages, for which the Fool is paid, and equally Buondelmonti also summoned the Fool to carry messages for payment. Now the Fool is working for both sides, one against the other. An involuntary double-agent, if you will. This leads to excruciatingly awkward situations for him. Firstly he has to keep it a secret from his friends, and secondly he has to keep it a secret from Oddo, and from Buondelmonti. This is a dilemma that he fights with throughout the story, creating many problems for himself.

It is while he is delivering these messages that the story lays itself open, and we see through the eyes of the Fool, the deception, planning and scheming that goes on behind closed doors to placate a situation that has been instigated by a prank. Honour has to be served and upheld.

I like the cover to this book. It has a shadow of a Jester/Fool set against castle walls. The Fool in the story lives in the shadows while he observes all that is going on around him. The title A THING DONE seemed to me to be abstract until I read the translation of a poem at the beginning of the book by Dante Alighieri, Inferno 28.103-108 quoting ‘… “A thing done has an end to it”, which was an evil seed for the Tuscan people.’

A THING DONE has a surprising ending with no loose ends. It is a truly fascinating read, an intriguing read, and an eye-opener to how life was lived in 13th Century Florence.

If you would like to go in the draw to win a copy of A THING DONE then all you have to do is comment here, or on the Review Blog Page  Unfortunately Tinney can only give away the paperback version if you live in the USA; otherwise it will be the e-book version.


  1. This sounds fascinating - an excellent review of a very promising novel!

  2. would love to with this. llindaroot8@gmailcom. Fine review sold me on the book.

  3. Sounds like a great read. Wonderful review, Louise!

  4. Please enter me in the draw! I have been interested in this book for sometime!

  5. Please count me in. I love the sound of this one. Great review too.